The mystery of Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl 51 jersey has been solved, thanks to the work of US and Mexican authorities.
As Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported in March, authorities were able to track down Brady’s stolen jersey because the alleged thief was caught on camera in the Patriots locker room, milling around, looking at the camera, and later leaving with a bag under his arm.
However, according to Robert Klemko and Jenny Vrentas of the MMQB, authorities actually used a scrupulous process to nail down who, exactly, took the jersey.
According to the MMQB, after sifting through hours of security footage, authorities had found their man, the man seen on tape milling about the Patriots locker room. However, figuring out who that was wasn’t so easy. They decided to go through the 20,000 credentialed employees in the arena for Super Bowl LI, beyond just media members, narrowing the list down to males in their 40s, white or potentially Latino. That reportedly nailed it down to about 800 people.
They then went through the headshots of those 800 people until they found a face matching the tape: Martín Mauricio Ortega, director of a Mexican tabloid called La Prensa.
To track him, authorities received some help. According to the MMQB, Dylan Wagner, a 19-year-old Patriots fan and memorabilia collector had recently exchanged texts and photos with Ortega about their respective collections. At the time, Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey had not yet been reported as stolen. However, when the story got out, Wagner immediately became suspicious.
“In December, Wagner sold a game-worn Deion Branch jersey on eBay. He and the buyer emailed each other photos of their collections, as collectors often do, and Wagner was taken aback when the man sent 27 pictures of his robust trove. ‘This guy is a god in the collecting world,’ Wagner thought at the time. Wagner noticed a premier item front and center in one shot: A No. 12 jersey from Super Bowl XLIX, with grass stains matching the shirt Brady had worn that night. ‘How’d you get it?’ Wagner asked. The buyer replied that it was a long story, and he’d tell him later. Wagner followed up, wanting to know if he’d gotten the shirt legally. The buyer never responded.
“The day after Super Bowl LI, when the world was learning that Brady was now missing two Super Bowl jerseys, that [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Boston] friend sent Wagner a link to a news story. Red flags went up for both of them.
“The friend forwarded Wagner’s information to a contact of his — the FBI Chicago agent. By the end of that week, the Chicago agent called Wagner, requesting all the information he had — name, address, IP address, email chains, etc.”
From there, authorities tracked down Ortega and made plans to go to Mexico.
According to the MMQB, Ortega has been buying and selling American football memorabilia since 1996. However, experts told Klemko and Vrentas that he may have had a hard time selling the Super Bowl LI jersey, since the theft had been so widely reported.
Klemko and Vrentas report that authorities were surprised to see that the jersey still had grass stains on it from the game and still smelled, but later realised they were kept to ensure authenticity if Ortega had tried to sell it.
When authorities got to Ortega’s house, they presented him with a deal, hand over the stolen memorabilia and there will not be charges. As Klemko and Vrentas put it, by crossing back into Mexico, Ortega may have committed the perfect crime — extraditing a jersey thief to the US would have been over-the-top given that the extradition standards are usually held for drug dealers, murderers, etc.
According to the report, Ortega’s home was not dug through or torn up by authorities. They got the memorabilia, left, and it was later returned to Brady and the Patriots.
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